Totnes Town Council is looking to purchase the former Lower School site from King Edward VI Community College, which includes the red-brick Elmhirst Building and the sports and recreation fields running down to the River Dart, to try to save a much loved green space and community asset for the town. It is currently completing a detailed feasibility study to assess whether its plan is possible.
If successful, the Council’s vision is to work with the community to protect and enhance the area as a flourishing centre for sports, recreation, arts, learning, craft, enterprise and renewable energy. Plans would also include improving pedestrian access to the River Dart for recreational activities, and enhancing connectivity with Totnes Railway Station and the town centre for pedestrians and cyclists.
The Town Council recognises the huge potential of the site to contribute to the social, environmental and economic wellbeing of Totnes and to the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of local people, especially young people. It believes the site is an essential ‘green lung’ within the town and it would be a terrible loss for current and future citizens if the site is sold to housing developers.
At the same time, the Town Council fully acknowledges that the community college has an urgent need to raise a significant amount of capital and aims to find a “win win” solution in the best interest of the college and the town, which would mean buying the site at a fair value that doesn’t disadvantage the college’s future plans.
The Town Council also acknowledges that the Lower School site and the college’s three other development sites are allocated for housing in the latest Joint Local Plan, the planning framework which determines how Totnes will look and feel over the next 20 years. The Town Council is fully supportive of the proposed provision of sustainable new housing and careful improvements to the town, and believes that it is possible to work with the college and South Hams District Council to meet the allocation within the overall area while still protecting and enhancing the Lower School site and Elmhirst Building for the community.
- The Council has submitted an application to South Hams District Council for the site to be nominated as an Asset of Community Value
- The Council will seek to borrow money to secure the site, taking advantage of the public sector’s ability to access loan funding at favourable rates of interest over 50 years (known as prudential borrowing)
- Funding for future improvements will be pursued from the National Lottery, grant-giving trusts and foundations and other sources
- The feasibility work needs to be completed by the end of October 2021
If the plans prove viable the Council hopes to begin formal negotiations with the college, after which there will be a major community consultation to enable local citizens, groups and community partners to help shape the concept and plans for the future of the site.